The third lane of the Victoria Park Tunnel on State Highway 1 in central Auckland will be opened by the NZ Transport Agency early tomorrow morning (Monday 26 March) after a final round of work overnight to paint new lane markings on the motorway.
Later in the day, a special lane will open up for the first time to help afternoon peak traffic move more easily through St Marys Bay and across the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
"Expected fine weather will let us complete our lane marking and we are now set to pass on improvements that will have a big impact on all drivers heading to the North Shore and beyond," says the NZTA's acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton.
"Tomorrow will be a significant one for transport in Auckland; the tunnel will be operating at full capacity and for the first time there will be five traffic lanes through St Marys Bay to match the five lanes on the harbour bridge. Driving through the Central Motorway Junction - the most heavily congested section on our network - will be easier and safer."
The $340m Victoria Park Tunnel is the first of the Government's roads of national significance to be completed. It ends a series of motorway construction projects through central Auckland over the past 10 years that will benefit freight and other economically productive customers, and provide safer and more reliable links for Auckland communities.
The additional St Marys Bay lane, which will reduce the need for drivers to change lanes, will be open by 3.30pm each week day at the Fanshawe Street on-ramp. It can be accessed from both Fanshawe and Beaumont Streets. A video animation showing how the peak lane works at the Fanshawe Street on-ramp can be seen at: www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/victoria-park-tunnel/video-fanshawe.html(external link).
The third lane in the tunnel will extend back to the ramp signals where Grafton Gully and the Northwestern Motorway (SH16) merge with SH1.
"We expect delays on the approach to the tunnel to disappear. However, traditional northbound queues during the afternoon peak will still continue further south on SH1," Mr Mutton says.
The tunnel carries only northbound traffic. As part of the project, the adjacent Victoria Park flyover has been reconfigured to carry four lanes of southbound traffic.
"When we opened to flyover in its new layout in January there were considerable savings in travel times. When drivers become familiar with tomorrow's new northbound layouts, we anticipate that their travel through this very busy section of Auckland will not only be easier, but quicker too," says Mr Mutton.
The motorway section of the Victoria Park Tunnel project is being completed three months ahead of schedule.